Whenever we think of celebrities, we imagine them sashaying up the red carpet, decked out with designer clothing and smiling for the photographers. We think of limousines, mansions in Hollywood, and wads of cash.
For many actors and actresses, this is not what they're used to. You'd be surprised how many of today's biggest names used to be homeless before their big breaks. In fact, one of the most well-loved celebrities faced unthinkable hardship and still overcame it all to follow his dream of becoming an actor.
On July 6, 1946, Sylvester Stallone was born in New York City. Half of the lower left side of his face was paralyzed from birth, which caused him to have slurred speech and a permanent "snarl" to his mouth.
His home life was unhappy, as his parents had frequent fights and eventually divorced in 1957 when Sylvester was only 11 years old. Throughout his youth, he was in and out of foster care and spent time living with his father and later his mother and her second husband.
Angry and resentful, a young Sylvester was expelled from multiple schools before finally completing high school. Despite his academic failures, he had a dream. From a very young age, Sylvester knew he wanted to become an actor to "inspire people and give them a way to escape."
Early Acting Career
He studied drama at the American College in Switzerland and the University of Miami before going to the big city to make his way.
In New York City, he faced rejection after rejection. Producers refused to cast him because of his unsymmetrical face and slurred speech. Penniless and without a home, Stallone slept at the NY bus station for 3 days, and worked odd jobs, such as cleaning the animals' cages at Central Park Zoo.
He married Sasha Czack and had some small successes starring in a few roles with meager pay. In his first movie role, he was in a 20-second clip and "played a thug someone beat up." It wasn't exactly the life he'd always dreamed of.
Go to the next page to find out how he got his big break!
To make matters worse, the heating stopped working in his apartment. Freezing cold and starving, his wife screamed at him to find a job. Sylvester knew that if he took a job that wasn't acting, he'd "lose the hunger" to succeed, and end up far away from his dream.
The "lowest day of his life" came when he stood outside a liquor store to sell his beloved dog, who was his best friend. He sold the dog for $25 and cried. He said it was the "worst thing that ever happened in my life."
Stallone did something else that his wife wasn't happy about. He took her jewelry and sold it.
In order to stay warm during the winter, he spent time at the library, reading the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Tolstoy. Inspired by their writing, Stallone decided he not only wanted to be an actor, but also a screenwriter.
He wrote his first script for a movie called Paradise Alley, which he sold for a mere $100.
You'd think by this time he'd give up, but Stallone wasn't a quitter. "The greatest revenge is massive success," he said.
One day, he watched a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner. He was impressed not by the mighty Ali but Wepner, who kept getting beaten but didn't stop fighting.
After the match, Stallone sat down and wrote the script for Rocky in 20 hours! He was shaking at the end, not just from exhaustion but sheer excitement.
At first, nobody wanted the script, but two producers met with him and offered $125,000. Stallone accepted on one condition - that he could play the lead role of Rocky Balboa. The producers refused, saying he "looked funny and talked funny." Even after they raised their offer to $325,000, Stallone still refused.
Finally, they came to a compromise and paid Stallone $35,000 to star in the movie. With just a $1 million budget, the film went on to gross a whopping $200 million in the box office. Rocky also won 10 academy awards, including best actor for Stallone's performance.
Despite his early struggles, Sylvester Stallone has become one of the most successful action film stars because he never gave up.
When asked what he did with his first paycheck, he said he tracked down the guy who bought his dog. When the man refused to part with his pet, Stallone offered him $15,000 plus a role in Rocky as an extra. He got his best friend back.